2024 Cognizant Classic Preview: Everything You Need To Know About PGA National

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Written By John Haslbauer | Last Updated
cognizant classic odds

It’s another week of golf action on the PGA TOUR. The next stop is the 2024 Cognizant Classic. Compare Cognizant Classic odds at the best sports betting sites to increase your potential PGA TOUR golf betting payouts. Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Shane Lowry project as the top favorites for this upcoming tournament.

New year, new name for Jack Nicklaus’ longstanding event in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Formerly known as the Honda Classic, the show goes on at PGA National as we ramp up for the start of the Florida Swing at the 2024 Cognizant Classic.

Although Charlie Woods wasn’t quite able to qualify, this event and its new title sponsor fought back from recent years of mediocre fields with a far more compelling group of contenders. PGA National is one of the great challenges on TOUR. It features a climactic finish in its closing stretch with constant long iron approaches into greens surrounded by water. We should expect plenty of carnage and reloads for any shots off the mark.

Here’s a look at everything you can expect to help navigate 2024 Cognizant Classic odds.

COGNIZANT CLASSIC ODDS: THE FAVORITES

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Cognizant Classic
C. Young
R. Henley
M. Woo Lee
Last Updated on 02.26.2024

THE FIELD AT A GLANCE

The Cognizant Classic has attracted some of its biggest names in years, due in part to a re-shuffling of the schedule between the California and Florida swings that includes a stopover in Mexico. Historically, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS loom large. As a result, stars typically opted to skip PGA National, but it seems many who call Florida home are prepared to play for the next three consecutive weeks.

Of that group, Rory McIlroy is a welcomed headliner. The 2012 Honda Classic champ is set to make his first appearance at PGA National since 2018. He’s joined by an impressive list of 13 OWGR top-40 players in this week’s field, headlined by stars like Matt Fitzpatrick, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Sungjae Im, and Rickie Fowler. 

Chris Kirk narrowly edged past local hero Eric Cole in a playoff victory last year, and will return for his title defense in 2024. Other past champions in this week’s field include Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im, Padraig Harrington, Camilo Villegas, and Matt Kuchar.

INTRODUCTION TO PGA NATIONAL

The Honda Classic unfortunately became the forgotten step child of the Florida Swing and, despite the TOUR’s efforts to move its place on the schedule and attract better fields, it failed to do so recently. Honda even chose to pull out as title sponsor. The Cognizant Classic drew what is arguably the worst position on the entire PGA TOUR schedule.

It’s impossible to expect the top players to play five consecutive weeks from the WM Phoenix Open to THE PLAYERS. Naturally, every OWGR top-15 player elected to skip last year.

The strength of field doesn’t quite match the quality of this course and event historically. Big names like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy picked up wins here. Difficult conditions reward the best all-around players and easily expose lesser ball-strikers with persistent and nervy tee shots over water hazards.

New Course Changes In 2024

PGA National has long been a par-70 with only two par-5s. New in 2024, the par-4 10th hole was lengthened by 20 yards and converted from a very difficult long 508-yard par-4, to a more scorable 528-yard par-5.

Historically, the 10th hole was the second-hardest scoring hole at PGA National, with a scoring average of 4.25. Lengthening by about 20 yards, the scoring average may increase slightly but, relative to par, this now becomes the easier birdie opportunity on the course.

All in all, this doesn’t change how the course plays, nor which players suit it best. We should expect the winning mark to be four strokes lower than we’ve typically seen recently.

About the Course

PGA National stands at 7,145 yards as a par-71. It’s anything but your traditional short plodder’s course, with tight landing areas off the tee and a heavy volume of forced layups from dramatic doglegs. Wedge play is effectively removed from this course, with only about 11% of approaches coming from within 125 yards. That’s a unique distinction for a course of this length, as it instead rewards the top mid-to-long iron players. About 65% of approach shots will come from between 125-200 yards, well above TOUR average.

PGA National proves to be the most difficult course on TOUR for approaches from beyond 150 yards. That’s thanks in part to its exposure to gusting winds and firm and fast conditions. This places a premium on Bogey Avoidance and Scrambling, particularly benefiting players comfortable on pure Bermuda on and around the green. Top-tier ball strikers with proven short game on Bermuda contend in this event.

PGA National has a cut line above-par in each of the last 10 years. Its Median Field Score sat at Even par or worse in seven of the last eight years. Outside of the par-5s, all 15 other holes feature a scoring average of Even par or worse. Depending on the wind direction, the par-5s offer no guarantees for birdies, either.

A score of -10 or better has been enough to win this event in eight of the last 10 years. With par converted to 71, we should expect a winning score around -14 or better this year, considering the improved strength of field.

For PGA National course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past Cognizant Classic winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our Cognizant Classic odds page.

COURSE HISTORY & COURSE COMPS

After a few weeks on the West Coast with highly predictive course history, the Cognizant Classic struggled to produce the same continuity year over year. Over the last 40 years, only Padraig Harrington and Mark Calcavecchia won this event multiple times. Given the its rotating slot on the schedule each year, it’s been difficult to attract the same players.

Sepp Straka

The Austrian by-way-of Georgia developed a strong affinity to Bermuda greens since moving stateside. Straka leads the field in total strokes gained at PGA National over the last five years, including a win and a T2 in two appearances. At TPC Southwind – which shares many of the same characteristics with PGA National – Straka lost in a playoff to Will Zalatoris in 2022.  

Others Excelling at Cognizant Classic

After Straka, the rest of the top 10 in Event History includes: Shane Lowry, Byeong Hun An, Lee Hodges, Daniel Berger, Dylan Wu, Sungjae Im, Sam Ryder, and Russell Henley. Some notables among the worst in terms of total strokes gained at PGA National include Luke List, Erik van Rooyen, Doug Ghim, and Joseph Bramlett.

Only 11 players avoided missing the cut at this event over the last five years (min. three appearances): Daniel Berger, Shane Lowry, Sam Ryder, Russell Henley, Gary Woodland, Jhonattan Vegas, Billy Horschel, Adam Svensson, Beau Hossler, Kevin Streelman, and Stephan Jaeger.

Eleven players in this field delivered multiple T15 finishes over the last five years: Sepp Straka, Lee Hodges, Daniel Berger, Shane Lowry, Sungjae Im, Russell Henley, Gary Woodland, Chris Kirk, Keith Mitchell, Mark Hubbard, and Sam Ryder. 

Course Comps

There are plenty of difficult and wind-exposed Bermuda layouts to reference when finding course fits this week. I’m weighting comp course history a bit heavier in my model than I normally would. Plenty of players have sticky history throughout the Florida Swing this time of year who are worth buying low on after the last month on primarily Poa-based greens.

Nicklaus has his hands all over the layout of this golf course. Concession GC emulates PGA National the closest in my eyes. Apart from the Nicklaus connection, both are situated in Florida on the same Bermuda grass and water hazards. They share fairly difficult scoring and a premium on Approach play. 

Weather Considerations

A big factor for this week is managing the flighting of the ball around swirling winds. Matt Jones credited his comfort around flighting different shots into winds as key to his 2021 victory. TPC Southwind, Colonial CC, and Waialae CC are similar shorter courses that require this type of maneuvering. And as far as crossover leaderboards go, Waialae CC is probably the best comp with overlapping wins at each from Russell Henley, Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar within the past decade.

Chris Kirk, Matt Jones, Keith Mitchell, and Adam Scott add to the list of past Cognizant Classic winners with a strong history at Waialae CC.

Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead), and TPC Sawgrass also reward similar skill sets in difficult conditions. If we just want to look at a blanket SG: Florida, the top-10 players in SG: TOT over the last 36 rounds across the Florida Swing are Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Ryan Fox, Chris Kirk, Shane Lowry, Justin Suh, Davis Riley, Eric Cole, Ben Griffin, and Cameron Young.

Finally on a more tertiary basis, I like Quail Hollow as another difficult scoring course with fast Bermuda greens that slightly favors longer hitters.

Mash that all together and the top-10 players in comp course history are: Daniel Berger, Russell Henley, Rory McIlroy, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Chris Kirk, Ben Griffin, Shane Lowry, Alex Noren, and JT Poston.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER AT THE 2024 COGNIZANT CLASSIC

  • SG: APP / SG: Ball Striking
  • SG: OTT / Driving Distance
  • SG: ARG / Scrambling (Bermuda)
  • Prox: 125-200
  • Bogey & Double Bogey Avoidance
  • SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions) / SG: TOT (Florida Swing)
  • SG: Putting (Bermuda)
  • Course & Comp Course History

With so many high-pressure approach shots over water, it’s crucial to have narrow misses on this course. That’s especially true in the 125-200 yard range. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Tom Hoge, Erik van Rooyen, Justin Lower, Michael Kim, Mark Hubbard, Matthieu Pavon, Gary Woodland, Sam Ryder, Adam Svensson, and Daniel Berger.

The top-10 players in Proximity 125-200 yards are Chris Kirk, Sepp Straka, Michael Kim, David Lipsky, Mark Hubbard, Lucas Glover, Sam Ryder, Chesson Hadley, Russell Henley, and Akshay Bhatia.

It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly this event falls from an OTT standpoint between Distance vs Accuracy. Since SG: OTT hasn’t been highly correlated either way in terms of past success, I’m leaning more on SG: Ball Striking this week in order to include a second layer of Approach importance. With hazards coming into play so persistently, it’s probably best to weed out any players who are bottom 25% in SG: OTT or Driving Distance this week.

The Biggest Keys

I’m looking more closely at SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions), Bogey Avoidance, and Scrambling Gained, as players who fit this profile should bring the safest floors. The 10 players who rank top-40 in each category include: Eric Cole, JT Poston, Chris Kirk, Alex Noren, Adam Svensson, Stephan Jaeger, Corey Conners, Tom Kim, Brendon Todd, and KH Lee.

To bring this all together, I’m honing in on above-average players in SG: APP, Prox: 125-200, SG: Ball Striking, Scrambling, SG: TOT (Comp Courses), Bermuda Putting and SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions). Only 11 players fit that criteria this week: Rory McIlroy, Daniel Berger, Eric Cole, Byeong Hun An, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Adam Svensson, Stephan Jaeger, Corey Conners, Keith Mitchell, and Doug Ghim.

Correlation And PGA National

The correlation charts for success at PGA National call for a similar profile of Par-4 Scoring premiums along with Bogey Avoidance and SG: T2G. As a par-70, there is far less advantage to be had from Par-5 Scoring this week. There hasn’t been much of an edge for par-3 specialists, either.

We see the biggest jumps compared to TOUR average in the importance of SG: APP and Scrambling. I’ll be dialing up the importance of those metrics heavily for in my model this week. Par-4: 350-400 will also be a premium range for scoring this week, as three of the par 4s will fall within this range.

In terms of other stats to avoid, Prox 200+ and 3-Putt Avoidance were among the least correlated with success at PGA National.

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at PGA National

Just nine players rate out above average in each of the above top-10 stat categories for PGA National: Rory McIlroy, Eric Cole, Byeong Hun An, Chris Kirk, Adam Svensson, Stephan Jaeger, Corey Conners, Doug Ghim, and Russell Henley. 

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RUSSELL HENLEY

This weekend, I went down a hole binge-watching Christopher Nolan movies and just finished watching the Dark Knight trilogy. As I transitioned to researching the Cognizant Classic, there’s one quote from Bane that continues to permeate with me:

“You think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it. Molded by it”.

What does this have to do Russell Henley’s prospects to win the Cognizant Classic? Think of “the Dark” as Bermuda greens. Henley was born in Bermuda, raised in Macon, Ga., and stayed home to spend his college years in Athens at the University of Georgia. He was molded into the professional golfer he is today because of his intimate familiarity with Bermuda greens. He averaged 0.3 strokes gained putting per round on Bermuda over the course of his career, while losing strokes on all other grass types.

By contrast, many favorites in the field – like The Batman – merely adopted Bermuda greens. Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry had their fair share of success at PGA National since moving to Florida. But they weren’t born in it. They may think Bermuda is their ally since they’ve called Florida “home,” but they will never truly mastered putting it like Henley.

The splits are staggering for Henley. Three of his four career TOUR wins came on this surface, including at this event in 2014. Of his 20 career top-five finishes, 14 came on Bermuda courses. This event long marked a turning of the page to a sustained Bermuda-based stretch on the schedule. Over his last 10 starts, he gained strokes putting three times – each on Bermuda courses and resulting in top-six finishes. 

Already a past winner at this event, another Cognizant Classic win is not what Henley needs, but what he deserves right now.

2024 COGNIZANT CLASSIC ODDS: DFS PLAYER POOL

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early toward the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2024 Cognizant Classic odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by actualized pricing/odds tier for DraftKings and rankings projections for Underdog Fantasy, with odds and pricing released earlier this week.

UNDERDOG GOLF DRAFT RANKINGS TIERS

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Tier 1

Rory McIlroy
Sungjae Im

Tier 2

Eric Cole
Chris Kirk
Russell Henley
JT Poston

Tier 3

Sepp Straka
Byeong Hun An
Keith Mitchell
Akshay Bhatia
Daniel Berger
Davis Thompson

Tier 4

Adam Svensson
Doug Ghim
Tom Hoge
Michael Kim
Lee Hodges

Tier 5

Sam Ryder
David Lipsky
Ben Griffin
Justin Suh
KH Lee
JJ Spaun

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COGNIZANT Classic Odds MODEL RESULTS & BREAKDOWN

For my model this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, Comp Course History, Prox 125-200, and Recent Form (SG: TOT: L16). Then, a more balanced mix of Scrambling + SG: ARG, SG: P (Bermuda), SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions) and Bogey or Worse Avoidance.

Model Favorites

To no surprise, World No. 2 Rory McIlroy emerges as the No. 1 player in my BTN model this week. As a past winner of this event, his history is surprisingly more bad than good at PGA National, as he’s posted just three finishes inside the top-40 over nine prior appearances. Even still, the Jupiter resident is the man to beat in Palm Beach this week, entering in very solid form just three starts removed from a win in Dubai.

After McIlroy, my model’s top-10 rounds out with: Daniel Berger, Eric Cole, Byeong Hun An, Russell Henley, JT Poston, Chris Kirk, Taylor Pendrith, Alex Noren, and Adam Svensson.

When odds release Monday, I’m looking to start my card with Russell Henley, Keith Mitchell, and JT Poston in the upper-middle tier of the odds board, while also considering Sepp Straka, Adam Svensson, and Davis Thompson among longshots. 

Check back in later this week for more updates. Thanks for reading and best of luck navigating 2024 Cognizant Classic odds!

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